When Karen Rizzo's pet Tasha, who resembled a furry Siamese, got stuck in a tree near her Guinea Road home nearly two years ago, she hired a Brookfield man from a list of arborists to get her cat down.
"He couldn’t come in the morning, then he said, 'I'll be there in an hour. I'll be there in an hour,'" Rizzo recalled. "He was definitely hung over. He was crude. I certainly wouldn't recommend him."
Rizzo said the man joked about her cat being in the tree, asking, "Do you have a shotgun?"
"He kept asking for bottles of water," she said. "He had to sit down a couple times. I was pretty desperate. I should have sent him away."
The arborist borrowed his brother's equipment.
"He seemed capable of climbing a tree," Rizzo said. "I’m sure he didn't have insurance. He bragged that he watched other guys climb."
The man told Rizzo he would bring a backpack to scoop her cat up in, but he forgot it and asked for a duffel bag and a bungee cord.
Tasha got scared and climbed up a little higher as the man got close to her, then she jumped. Rizzo said her cat was too high and died from its fall.
Rizzo said the man she hired didn't apologize. "He expected payment in cash — $150," she said.
She paid him. But Monroe Animal Control Officer Edward Risko scratched the name off his list of references.
Risko said neither Monroe Animal Control nor town firefighters perform rescues of cats in trees, leaving pet owners with the option of hoping their cat will come down on its own or hiring a professional tree climber willing to climb, capture and bring cats to safety.
"Nobody wants to do this," said Marian Antinozzi of Fan Hill Road, who had recommended the arborist from Brookfield after having had a more positive experience when her cat, Frank, got stuck in a tree two years ago.
The Adventures of Frank
Antinozzi and her husband Mark, a Board of Education member in town, adopted Frank, when he wandered over to the couple's property after a Monroe Farmers Market on the green one year.
"He was meowing in our yard," Marian Antonozzi said. "We had him about a month as a pet. We took him right in with a little tuna and that was it. He got along with the dog."
But then Frank started to get himself into trouble.
"Toward the end of November we let the cat out and he doesn't come back," Antinozzi recalled. "Next thing we hear a meow in a tree above our property line. He was about 60 or 70 feet up. It was a thin tree."
In this case, the fire department tried to help, but the cat just climbed even higher, according to Antinozzi.
"There are a lot of theories on whether cats come down," Antinozzi said. "I think the dog warden said some cats don’t come down. I started calling tree places. One on Spring Hill Road wouldn't do it. I ended up calling this man in Brookfield and he said to call this guy who is a tree climber."
It was the same man who was later hired to help Rizzo.
"He said he'd come at 5 and came at around 7:30," Antinozzi said. "It was getting dark. He came with another climber. Mark helped with a light. He wasn’t prepared for it."
The men got the Antinozzi's cat down and they paid them $150.
Then in January Frank got stuck in another tree with snow and sleet on the ground. Antinozzi hired someone else she found on the Internet and he got her pet down.
The Antinozzis' put soft pads on Frank's paws, but in six weeks the cat's claws grew through it and the cat got stuck in a small pine tree. After a neighbor's son got him down, Marian said they declawed their cat.
Here's Some Info
Monroe Animal Control has a Tree Cats public service announcement packet with some tips to help pet owners whose cats get caught up in a tree.
According to the packet, cats are excellent climbers and will rarely fall out of a tree and most may come down on their own after things calm down and they feel confident again.
After climbing high up into a tree a fear of falling can set in and a cat can go into shock. The PSA says cats claws are curved and work well for climbing up, but that a cat has to climb backwards to come back down — which is not easy for some cats to do.
A cat should be rescued by someone with both climbing experience and the proper climbing equipment, according to the PSA, because it can be extremely dangerous to climb yourself and try to handle a scared cat.
If your cat does not come down after a long period of time, a professional should be called.
References for local tree care companies who can help are listed at Monroe Animal Control, 203-452-3760. And more information and contacts can be found at CatInATreeRescue.Com.
It should be noted that if your cat gets stuck on a utility pole, it is illegal to climb it. Call the electric company for assistance.
'A Scaredy Cat'
Rizzo sometimes wonders what would have happened if she had waited for Tasha to come back down on her own, but she said her cat was crying for two days and two nights and it was cold.
Even if a rescuer does everything right, sometimes a cat who is too scared will jump.
"Sadly she was a scaredy cat," Rizzo said of Tasha. "So I’m not sure a better arborist could have helped. If I got up there she might have been afraid."